Four Women. One Man. Six Strings.

by Becca Jennings

“It’s a man’s world,” Joni Mitchell once said of the music industry. “Men wrote most of the songs for women, and they were mostly tales of seduction. I wrote my own songs. That ended that.”

From the front porch swing to sold out stadiums, Guitar Girls, FST’s second Cabaret of the Winter Season, celebrates the greatest female-songwriters of the last century. Shining a spotlight on the personal stories, public personas, and prolific impacts of these legendary musicians, Guitar Girls paints an American history (or shall we say “herstory”) with sound.

“The thing you have to remember is that these were previously unheard voices,” explained show Director Catherine Randazzo. “Particularly in the music industry. Music became an amplifier for the stories of these women’s lives.”

“Before the women in Guitar Girls came on the music scene, you would see women as the frontwoman or singer in a band, but they weren’t playing instruments or really shaping the band’s message,” added Producing Artistic Director and Lead Show Developer Richard Hopkins.

“Think of Loretta Lynn’s ‘Coal Miners Daughter.’ Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene.’ Kitty Wells’ ‘It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.’ No man could sing those stories for these women, and have them still ring true,” Randazzo continued. “These sentiments, these songs, had to come directly from the source to have the emotional resonance that they had then, and still have today. That’s what makes them so powerful.”

For many of these icons, their life-long relationship with music all started on the homestead with the family. Playing music together was a way to wind down after a long day, entertain, and spend time together.

This was certainly the case for such leading legends as Lorretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, whose humble beginnings were instrumental in their rise to musical stardom. Drawing from themes of family, faith, love, and heartbreak, their simple, straightforward lyrics, set against a backdrop of rural America, were the soundtracks of their lives.

Following close behind, Rock & Roll icon Janis Joplin exploded on the scene, expanding the experience of the female singer-songwriter from the homestead to Woodstock. Joplin’s soulful lyrics channeled the raw confusion, conflict, and dreams of
the day.

But before Lynn, Parton, or Janis had ever even considered picking up a guitar, another fierce female was creating new genre-busting sounds with her signature mashup of gospel, rhythm-and-blues, and Rock & Roll. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a pioneer of mid 20th century music, was among the first to use heavy distortion on her electric guitar presaging the rise of electric blues. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of fame in 2017 – 44 years after her death – in recognition of her significant contribution as an early influence on Rock.

In addition to Lynn, Parton, Joplin, and Tharpe, Guitar Girls also features songs by such contemporary artists as Carole King, Wynonna Judd, The Dixie Chicks, and k.d. Lang. From “If I Had a Hammer,” to “Me and Bobby McGee” and “You’ve Got a Friend,” Guitar Girls will have you singing along to all your favorites while showcasing the real women behind these real hits.

Charged with the not-so-easy task of bringing these historic musical moments back to life are Cat Greenfield, Tamra Hayden, and Anna Stefanic who will all make their FST debuts, alongside returning vocalist Jannie Jones, who was last seen in last year’s record-smashing Blue Suede Shoes. And while the female singer-songwriters are undoubtedly the highlight of this Cabaret, the show would not be complete without famous duets from male icons like Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers. Helping to round out this sound is Joe Casey who was also last seen in Blue Suede Shoes.

“I always love folk music because it’s raw and rough around the edges,” shared performer Anna Stefanic. “It’s not about polished musicianship – it’s about emotional authenticity.”

Guitar Girls by Richard Hopkins, Rebecca Hopkins, and Catherine Randazzo with arrangements by Jim Prosser is now playing in FST’s Goldstein Cabaret. We look forward to having you join us for a musical celebration of these legendary “Girls With Guitars.”

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